R. Lewis' return in '02 a question

Redman out for Falcons with herniated disc

Blake to start at QB again

Star linebacker may need season-ending surgery

October 29, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

After declaring quarterback Chris Redman and linebacker Ray Lewis out for Sunday's game in Atlanta, Ravens officials acknowledged their worst fear: the possibility of losing their perennial All-Pro linebacker for the season.

Lewis hasn't played since Oct. 6, when he partially dislocated his left shoulder diving for a loose ball. Although a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed yesterday that the swelling has gone down in Lewis' shoulder, there is a chance he might need to undergo season-ending surgery if the injury doesn't heal properly in three to four weeks.

"We have to consider the possibility because of the nature of the injury," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "No one has told me that it's a real possibility, but it's a possibility. You can't rule it out."

Lewis' biggest problem has been with a piece of bone that flaked off his shoulder, which is common for this type of injury.

According to Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf, about 80 percent of players who dislocate their shoulder for the first time can fully recover in three weeks. Another group - which includes Lewis - takes longer to heal.

It's likely Lewis will sit out next week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, as well.

"I don't have any answers," Lewis said. "I don't know. I'm not a doctor. I'm working through it. Do you think I like not playing?"

The Ravens have a better gauge on Redman's status. Yesterday's MRI confirmed a herniated lumbar disc, which has irritated a nerve and caused numbness in his toes.

Backup quarterback Jeff Blake will start the second straight game in place of Redman, whose course of treatment will take as long as two weeks. Redman had a similar back injury in college and did not need surgery.

"There's enough going on in his back that we have to wait for that inflammation in his back to go down," Billick said.

Although Billick indicated Redman might be sidelined for two weeks, the quarterback says he could return Nov. 10 against Cincinnati.

"I would say by next week, I'll be fine," Redman said. "It's a little better, but it still is pretty numb as far as walking around with a dead leg. Hopefully, it will come back pretty soon."

The Ravens could have a potential quarterback controversy if Blake gets hot in Redman's absence.

"I anticipate Chris coming back healthy," Billick said. "If he does, I anticipate him being the starter. We're committed to the development of a Chris Redman. But it would be foolish for me to preclude anything. You never say never."

Blake, who has been burned in similar situations as the starter in Cincinnati and New Orleans, refused to look that far ahead.

"I've been in this league for a while and this game is what have you done for me lately?" said Blake, who was 29 of 50 passing for 298 yards and one touchdown but three interceptions in his first Ravens start. "If you play one good game and have one bad game, you're back on the bench again."

The more pressing concern is with the Ravens' defensive leader.

Lewis has lifted weights the past two weeks and has good strength in the shoulder. He returned to practice Friday, but did not take any hits. The difficulty is the pain and limited range of motion.

The loss of Lewis has worn on the Ravens each week. After playing solidly without Lewis in Indianapolis, the Ravens surrendered 173 yards rushing to the Jacksonville Jaguars and then gave up touchdowns on the first four drives against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens (3-4), who have fallen to third place in the AFC North, now have to face the Atlanta Falcons and elusive quarterback Michael Vick without their leading tackler in the middle of the defense.

When asked how the Ravens would handle losing Lewis for the year, Billick said, "I'm heading right to my boat and turn the team over to somebody else. And I'm only half kidding."

He then added, "If it's a season deal, then that's the challenge we'll face. There's no hiding from it. There's no crawling up in the fetal position and waiting for your mother to come to your rescue. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We don't know if that's the case. We have got a couple of weeks before that decision has to be made."

Lost in the middle of these injuries has been defensive end Michael McCrary.

With Sunday's game being played on artificial turf, McCrary will not play because the team does not want him to risk further damage to his knee. Despite missing two games already, he has 14 tackles and two sacks.

If further injuries don't force a roster crunch, the Ravens are willing to carry McCrary, even it means he can play only half of the remaining games.

R. Lewis factor

How the Ravens have fared with and without inside linebacker Ray Lewis:

Category ............. With ................. Without

Quarters ............... 15 .......................13

TDs allowed ........... 4 ......................... 9

Total yards ........ 1,175 ..................... 1,202

First downs ........... 70 ........................ 70

Yards per play ...... 5.0 ....................... 5.3

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